Which VPNs unblock the most geo-locked streaming services?
Published by on January 10, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

Perhaps the most common questions we get at Comparitech follow the same formula: “Does X VPN unblock Y video streaming service?”

We’ve done our best to answer all possible combinations of this question in various articles, but now we’re aggregating everything we know into one place.

VPN_vs_Streaming (2)

Clear winners

ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VyprVPN are at the top of their game when it comes to unblocking geo-locked content. They are the only VPNs we know of that can unblock Netflix both on a browser and when using the Netflix app. They can also both unblock Hulu, which has some of the most robust anti-VPN barriers, in our experience.

Do not buy a subscription and simply expect any server to work, however. The range of servers that can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Now–even in a web browser–is very limited. We recommend you contact ExpressVPN’s live customer support to ask which servers currently work with the streaming site you wish to access. NordVPN users can consult the knowledge base on the company website. Typically, only a handful of servers will be able to bypass a firewall at any one time.

ExpressVPN

  • Netflix app
  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu app
  • Hulu browser
  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

expressvpn android 2
ExpressVPN is an undisputed champion of unblocking video streaming services online, although it doesn’t openly advertise its capabilities. Because of that, it’s not very obvious which servers users should connect to. We won’t post them here because they occasionally change and we don’t want to draw undue attention to them. Instead, users will have to contact customer service to ask which servers to connect to for which streaming service.

Luckily, ExpressVPN has a live chat service on their website that rarely keeps customers waiting for more than five minutes. They are professional staff who know the product well. They might ask you to prove that you are a real customer and not a shill for Netflix by asking for the email address under which you signed up for an account and the last server you connected to. Once you’ve passed the test, you’ll be given a shortlist of servers that should bypass the firewall.

Deal alert: ExpressVPN has offered Comparitech readers an additional three months free here with its 12 month plan. There is also a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free and receive a full refund if you don’t want to stick with it beyond 30 days.

NordVPN

  • Netflix app
  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu app
  • Hulu browser
  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

nordvpn android app
NordVPN is the only other provider to perform on par with ExpressVPN. It, too, unblocks pretty much everything, but requires knowing which servers to connect to. The NordVPN desktop app lets you view individual servers and upon hovering over them with a mouse, a list of un-blockable streaming channels appears in a tool tip. In our experience, however, this feature was rarely accurate.

Instead, we recommend heading to the NordVPN knowledge base and simply searching for the streaming video service you want to unblock. In the appropriate page, NordVPN maintains a list of working servers. You can toggle those servers as favorites in the app to make them easier to find later.

NordVPN is competitively priced even at full price, with the winter deal they are running here it is particularly good value.

VyprVPN

  • Netflix app
  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu app
  • Hulu browser
  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

vyprvpn android
VyprVPN has recently re-emerged as a strong candidate for best overall unblocker. A few months ago customers had seemingly lost hope of it ever being able to unblock Hulu again. Quite recently, however, it was able to unblock everything in our tests, including the Netflix and Hulu apps. We’ll monitor it in the coming weeks to see if it can sustain its success, but for now it stands among the heavyweights like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

We didn’t test every server on VyprVPN, but we can confirm that the New York server was effective in unblocking all streaming channels.

The best deal we could find for VyprVPN is a 3 day free trial followed by your first month half price.

LiquidVPN

  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu app
  • Hulu browser
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

liquidvpn android
LiquidVPN put on a middle-range performance in our tests. It failed to unblock the Netflix app on Android and HBO Now on both Android and in a web browser. The HBO Now player returned a NetStream.Play.StreamNotFound error message. That’s not very helpful in diagnosing the problem, but it didn’t occur when using any other VPN service.

Otherwise, it succeeded in unblocking everything else. All servers seemed to give identical results.

If you want to try LiquidVPN there’s a 20% discount here, you will also need to add the code ‘COMP20’ at checkout.

StrongVPN

  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu app
  • Hulu browser
  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

strongvpn android
With the exception of the Netflix mobile app, StrongVPN unblocked everything we put it up against. We sampled a handful of servers and they all seemed to work across the board, though we can’t vouch for all of them.

StrongVPN and ExpressVPN are both favorites among VPN users in China, as they both excel at bypassing the country’s Great Firewall online censorship system. StrongVPN is quite a bit cheaper, though, so it’s a good option if you don’t mind missing out on the Netflix app. You can save 15% on the standard prices here and by adding the code ‘SAVE15’ at checkout.

Buffered

  • Netflix browser
  • Hulu browser
  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

buffered servers and connected
Buffered unblocks everything if you only want to use a web browser, but the lack of a dedicated mobile app means it won’t do much good for those who prefer to watch on a tablet or smartphone. Hopefully this will change soon when Buffered releases its long awaited Android and iOS apps.

Buffered has server locations on both the East and West coasts of the United States and one in the UK. At least one of the US servers consistently works with Netflix and the single Great Britain works with BBC iPlayer. Like ExpressVPN, Buffered offers a 30 day money-back guarantee.

IPVanish

  • HBO Now
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Prime
  • SlingTV

IPVanish Android Kodi
IPVanish seems to be struggling to unblock the most popular streaming services as of late. It failed to unblock Hulu and Netflix altogether in our tests, despite a support ticket we submitted suggesting otherwise. Still, users can still watch Planet Earth and Game of Thrones on HBO Now and BBC iPlayer. IPVanish scores highly for protecting privacy and speed so if you are interested in a VPN for torrenting or  a VPN that works well with Kodi it is a very good choice.

What about all the other VPN providers?

There are of course dozens of VPN providers, but only a handful have solid track records of being able to reliably unblock streaming channels like Netflix and Hulu. For this reason, we’ve excluded VPNs that do not and probably will not feature such capabilities.

However, if you subscribe to a VPN that reliably unblocks the streaming services above, let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding it to the article.

Not working? Try this…

Before you leave an angry comment saying how wrong we are about whether a particular VPN works with a particular streaming service, try the following:

  1. Disable IPv6
  2. Clear your cookies, browser cache, and hosted app data
  3. Make sure DNS leak protection is enabled and you are using the VPN provider’s DNS servers

When your device sends a web page request, most VPNs force those requests onto the IPv4 protocol. But some apps and websites can force requests to be sent on all possible channels, which results in a mismatched location exposing the use of a proxy service such as a VPN. Hulu and Netflix both use this tactic to weed out VPN users. To get around this, a simple solution is to disable IPv6 on your device altogether.

You might have attempted to access Hulu or BBC iPlayer in a web browser in the past and encountered an error due to being outside the country or using a proxy. The website in question could retain such information in a cookie or browser cache and continue blocking you even though a VPN is enabled now. If you’re connected to a working VPN but still get the proxy error message, then try wiping clean your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies.

How to disable IPv6 on a Windows PC (Windows 10):

  1. Disconnect and close the VPN app
  2. Tap Windows Key+R to open the Run prompt
  3. Type ncpa.cpl and hit Enter to open your Network Connections
  4. Find the connection you are using, right click it, and select Properties
  5. On the Networking or General tab, uncheck the box that says “Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6)
  6. Click OK to save changes and close the Window
  7. Tap Windows Key+R and select Command Prompt (Admin), then hit Yes when asked if it’s okay for the program to make changes to your computer
  8. In the command prompt (black window), type ipconfig /flushdns and hit Enter.
  9. Reconnect to the VPN, refresh the Hulu page, and enjoy the video!

How to disable IPv6 on MacOS:

  1. Disconnect and close the VPN app
  2. Open the Apple menu.
  3. Choose System Preferences > Network > AirPort > Advanced
  4. Click TCP/IP.
  5. Click on the Configure IPv6 pop-up menu and select Off.
  6. Click OK and Apply (to apply the change).
  7. Reconnect to the VPN, refresh the Hulu page, and enjoy the video!

How to clear your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies on Chrome

  1. Click the three dots in the top right corner of Chrome and go to Settings
  2. Scroll all the way down and click on Show advanced settings
  3. Under Privacy, click Clear browsing data
  4. Check Cookies and other site and plugin data, Cached images and files, and Hosted app data
  5. Hit Clear browsing data and wait for the process to finish
  6. Go back to the video and refresh the page with the VPN enabled. You will be prompted to log in again. After that, the video should be accessible. Enjoy!

How to clear your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies on Chrome

  1. In the History menu, select Clear Recent History
  2. Press Alt to make the menu bar visible
  3. From the Time range to clear: drop-down menu, select Everything
  4. Next to Details, click the down arrow and choose select all items
  5. Click Clear Now
  6. Exit FireFox and re-open the browser. Navigate to the video page and log in again. Enjoy the video!

What’s the difference between watching Netflix or Hulu in a browser and watching it on an app?

Netflix and Hulu are less likely to be geo-blocked on a browser than in their respective apps. This is because an app can override a VPN’s DNS settings and force DNS requests to go to the nearest DNS server. When the location given by the user’s IP address and their DNS server don’t match, a proxy is detected and the video is blocked.

DNS, or domain name system, works sort of like the internet’s phone book. Every internet connected device on the internet is assigned a unique IP address. Websites and apps usually have domains, however, such as “www.comparitech.com”. Translating an easy-to-remember domain into a usable IP address is the job of DNS servers. DNS servers are usually run by ISPs and public providers like Google.

Most good paid VPN services operate their own DNS servers, which assists in location spoofing. In a browser, the Netflix and Hulu websites have no power to change the VPN’s DNS settings. An app, however, can override the VPN’s DNS settings and reveal a mismatch between the IP address location and the DNS location, indicating that the user is connected to a VPN.

Very few–ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and NordVPN–have figured out how to combat the Netflix and Hulu apps’ DNS override mechanism.

Why only US Netflix?

We only tested VPNs with the US version of Netflix due to time constraints. There simply isn’t enough demand for us to test every VPN with every country. We may considering adding a few more countries at some point in the future.

Netflix US has the largest catalog of new TV shows and movies that are in high demand, so it is by far the most requested country to test.

number of netflix titles by country

Keeping track of which servers work on which VPNs isn’t just a one-off task, either. The services in this article, including US Netflix, we check regularly. Netflix frequently blocks VPN servers, so staying up to date on multiple countries could soon accumulate to be such a huge task that it would require hundreds of hours.

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